Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Gospel in 300 Words


Happy Resurrection Sunday!  Sometimes, on holy days such as this, we go through the motions of tradition without thoughtfully evaluating the meaning.  The gospel is only powerful to us if we truly understand what we have lost through sin and what we have gained through Christ.  So, to help us do that, here is...

The Gospel in 300 Words

God created the world perfectly. He also created people—his children! Though in communion with God, they didn’t trust he was good. When they disobeyed, sin entered the world.  This sin became part of man and permeated humanity with brokenness.  But God, truly good, was also just; he couldn’t tolerate sin. He sent these children away (though he spoke of a future Savior!).  Banned from their Eden home, and living in a world of brokeness, they were separated from their Father. It was as if God regretfully said, “I love you, but don’t come near.” These people, now sentenced to death, spent generations trying to mend the rift they had created: following laws God had given, making sacrifices to cover their sin, trying to be good enough. God required they be perfect to pay the price for sin; they knew they couldn’t succeed.  Then the unexpected appeared!  The promised Savior!  Jesus was born a baby but still fully God.  And because he was God, he was able to live the perfect life that God required…of us.  He fulfilled all the laws and became the One Perfect Sacrifice…for us.  He did this in our place…instead of us. Just as sin had come through one man, “so by the one man’s obedience…many will be made righteous.” He died on a cross…in our place.  At the moment of his death, the curtain of the temple was torn apart; as if God was saying, “Now, finally, come close.” When he rose from the dead, he defeated all sin for all time. But he didn’t just leave us sinless; he imputed his righteousness in us! Now this is the heart of the gospel: By his life, his death, and resurrection, he reconciled us back to God!

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
Ephesians 2:13



Sunday, February 19, 2017

12 Things I Learned from Watching Downton Abbey

Normally, I am not a TV watcher.  Partly because we don’t have cable and partly because I have never found any series that truly captivated me.  I enjoy reading and prided myself in my ability not to get sucked in to any of that mind-numbing entertainment. 

Enter Downton Abbey. 

I get it, guys! I get it! 

I realize I am late in the game on the British Drama (I watched it via Amazon Prime for free!), but I have never been so fascinated with a television show ever.  I sometimes watched in batches (also known as binge-watching to the younger set), so willing was I to waste time sit in my chair by the fireplace and relax with the 1920’s aristocratic Crawley family.  I was obsessed with the goings on upstairs AND downstairs in the impressive mansion.  And now that I am done (and good thing, since I was clearly ADDICTED), I actually miss the characters, some of them more than others.  Actually, the ones I didn’t like began to grow on me by the end.   

I also made my dog watch it with me.  He was the most fascinated with Isis (did Robert and Cora actually sleep with the dog between them when the pup was dying??? I like dogs, but really).


And lest you think my mind has turned completely mushy by ingesting so much at Downton at once, I have written a blog recording observations I made whilst watching:

1.  Sitting down for tea and cake several times a day is a very good idea.  I don’t know about y’all, but the reason that this show appealed to me was because my life was so busy and I was craving some relax time.  The British folks in Downton weren’t burning the candle at both ends (in fact, they weren’t burning candles at any ends near the completion of the series when they had all those new-fangled light bulbs), if you know what I mean, but they were certainly open to stop whatever they were doing to sit down for tea and yummy-looking cake.  If we adopted this habit, I think we would all feel less frantic and happier—especially if we used cute little teacups with saucers. And if we never had to bake the cake.

2.  Breakfast in bed after you are married also seems like a very good idea.  Come on now; who doesn’t like breakfast in bed?  Especially if it happens EVERY DAY.  I did notice, though, that after the Downton folks got a toaster downstairs, breakfast seemed very toast-centric (which seemed reminiscent of my children’s offerings when they sweetly brought me breakfast in bed for Mother’s Day) for both the family and the servants.  But, hey, Cora seemed to like it.

3.  Speaking of Cora; I’m glad she’s not my mom.  Cora seemed so completely aloof at all times (except of course with the hospital fiasco when she actually showed some preferences.  Oh, and that time that Mary had that dead guy in her bed; she seemed pretty perturbed then too) and so completely out of touch with reality that she didn’t even question the fact that her middle daughter went to Switzerland for almost a year to learn French…really.  Did Edith seem especially fluent when she returned, Cora? Did you even ask her about her trip?  EDITH WENT TO SWITZERLAND TO HAVE A BABY!! A BABY!! And Cora had no clue.  Even when the child became “their ward,” Cora thought everything was just dandy. Lady Cora did have a few redeeming qualities but let’s just forget those right now and pretend she was a bad mom, K?

4.  Babies. Can we talk about birth for a second?  I have personally had four babies and each and every one of those births was a huge messy affair.  Both Sybil (I’m sorry no one but your husband Tom talks about you Sybil.  I really liked you and I’m sorry you died because they didn’t take you to the hospital) and Mary birth children on the show and are seen lying in perfectly crisp, very white sheets minutes after the birth.  Maybe if you are a British aristocrat, even birthing a baby is a very neat and tidy affair.

5.  Babies turn into children. Funny how that happens.  It is also funny that none of the parents on the show seem to really care about being part of their children’s lives.  What do these children do when they aren’t all sleeping in one room together in their little beds being creepily watched by their sometimes very mean nannies?  Does the Downton crew actually interview their nannies before they turn over their children’s lives to them? Do the children actually know who their parents are?  Do the grandparents know who the children's parents are?

6.  When you don’t have a job and you live with your parents, you have plenty of time to change clothes.  Did anyone else notice that the people of upstairs Downton seemed to be changing their clothes a lot?  Was this fun for them to have someone dressing and undressing them multiple times a day?  And, on a side note, did anyone else notice that Dickie (Lord Merton) who is supposedly in bed dying from a blood disease descends the stairs in a shirt and tie (with a robe over them, of course) in one episode when Isobel Crawley comes to visit him?  Weird.  If someone is supposedly dying, remove their necktie so they can breathe, even if they are British.

 6.5  When you don’t have a job and you have a ladies maid, your hair ALWAYS looks good.  Seriously, I need one of these.  Or maybe I just need new hair.

7.  Now that we are talking about clothes, why was Baxter sewing ALL THE TIME?  I mean, these people didn’t look like they were being especially rough on their garments with all their sitting up straight and drinking tea.  I don’t think they even wore any of them long enough to wrinkle the fabric.  But Baxter keeps sewing and sewing and sewing—both with the new “sewing machine” and by hand in the candlelight.  Was she just really slow at mending?  Or were the Crawleys more active in their off-screen time?

8.  Shining shoes seemed to be a full time job as well.  Is it just me?  Or did you also think that the servants spent a HUGE amount of time shining shoes?  Maybe shoe shining needs to become more of a priority in my life.  Or maybe I need to hire someone full time to shine my shoes so I, too, can have nice footwear to go with my nice hair (see point 6.5 for clarity).

9.  While we are on the subject, can we talk accessories?  Specifically gloves.  I want to talk about elbow length gloves.  As my hands and I get older, I notice that they are very blotchy and leopard-like.  Maybe I should start wearing elbow-length gloves all the time so that people assume I am much younger than my chronological age and so that they know that I am a human and not a feline because we all know felines never wear gloves.  For more insight into my aging woes, check out this post.

10.  Downton had an abundance of guests but that’s okay because guests aren’t a problem when you have a cook and servants.  The Downton folks must be extremely popular, or maybe they are just the right distance between all the other towns around because they have an abundance of guests.  Cora is always okay with this, though, because it causes her no extra hardship and she still gets to eat breakfast in bed.  Also, I am wondering how old one had to be a kitchen maid in the aristocratic era because Daisy looks right around 10. 

11.  We all need to write more letters.  After I finished watching the Downton series, I wrote a bunch of people actual paper and pen letters.  I was motivated by all the letter reading, writing, posting, and expecting that was part of the Downton day.  The letters I sent, however, were normal size and not the mini letters that everyone opened at the Abbey.

12.  Sometimes mean and conniving people are just really unhappy.  And by this, I am referring to Barrow, who has numerous problems that we shall not mention here.  His biggest problem is that he is not very nice.  And nobody is very nice to him.  And when his partner-in-meanness, Ms. O’Brien, leaves, he gets extra nasty.  But at the end, when they pull him out of the bathtub almost dead, I felt a little bit sorry for him and I tried to remember all the times that he had been a little bit kind.  It was difficult. I have other keen observations about Mary and Edith’s meanness to each other and Mary’s general meanness overall, but I will stop here so as not to sully their characters.  Also, I’m glad I don’t have to ride horses side-saddle in a dress because that would make me mean as well.  And probably the horse too.                                                        

That's all I got folks.  Let me know if you want to have a Downton reunion of sorts where we all get together and relive our favorite shows and commiserate about the psychological health of little Marigold; or even if you just want to come over and have tea and bring me some yummy cake.